Marketing tells us that we need to be able to sum up our work and who it is for in under 30 seconds.
The work itself is best if broken down into a series of linear, actionable steps.
We are told that people want messages that are quick to grasp, easy to digest, and entertaining.
I don’t want that, nor do I want to create it, but lately, the idea has been haunting me. That I “should” be able to create a pithy, three-word phrase that sums up the work that I do so that people “get it” immediately. The fact that I had been unable to do so, despite numerous attempts and marketing classes, I felt was some kind of personal failing.
But what if it isn’t? What if everything isn’t meant to be easily digestible?
I am reminded of these words by David Whyte from his book, Consolations:
“What is worthy of a life’s dedication does not want to be known by us in ways that diminish its actual sense of presence”
So for myself, and for you dear reader, I would like to make a case for complexity. Nuance. Slowness. And occasionally, downright difficulty.
My mom owns a cookbook by the Soup Peddler titled “Slow and Difficult Soups”; I resonate with this title. It’s a subtle yet subversive stand against a culture that tells us everything should be quick and easy. Packaged for consumption on-the-go. Made in one pan, in 30 minutes with only four ingredients!
One of the best compliments I receive on my newsletter is when people tell me they set it aside and come back to it when they have uninterrupted space.
Now, I am all for ease (it was actually my word for 2021!), but I fear it often comes at the price of complexity.
Not everything is meant to be easily graspable, but rather wrestled with. In the words of Rilke, sometimes we have to live the questions instead of settling for the first or easiest answer.
When we try to boil down the complexities of life into a headline or a few summary sentences, what we naturally sacrifice is nuance. Life starts to separate out into the stark absolutes of black or white, and we gravitate towards where our biases already lie.
There is little space left for curiosity.
We look for that which already confirms what we think or believe (or chuck what stands in opposition) because that, in essence, is what makes it so easy to digest! We know exactly where to slot and sort it without having to give it any extra thought or energy. Does it belong in the yes pile or the no pile?
But when we encounter something that is complex and nuanced and difficult, we are invited to slow down. To pause. To consider. To sit with.
When we do, we realize that the majority of life cannot easily be broken down into absolute binaries. The linear plot of the good guys versus the bad guys suddenly branches out in unruly brambles before our very eyes. We remember that much of life is complicated and downright messy.
And that is in fact where much of its beauty and richness lies.
I want to make time to be with complexity. In myself. In my work. In what I choose to engage with. In another. I want to allow that complexity to soften the barriers that I have erected within myself and invite me more deeply into the world. And finally, I want my sense of ease to cradle the complexities of life rather than attempt to exile them.
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